Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - The show jumping competition, the third and final equestrian discipline at the 2016 Olympic Games, got underway at the Deodoro Olympic Equestrian Center, on Sunday, showcasing 75 athlete-and-horse combinations from 27 nations. In addition to serving as the first individual qualifier, Sunday's results determined the starting order for the Team Competition.
Kent Farrington produced a clear round for the U.S., while teammates Lucy Davis, McLain Ward, and Beezie Madden each had four-fault rounds. All four athletes sit in the top 30 and are qualified to continue in the individual competition. As a team, the U.S. finished in a four-way tie for eighth and will go sixth in the order of 15 nations in round one of team competition on Tuesday. All nations will begin round one of team competition on a clean slate of zero faults.
Guilherme Jorge's show jumping course was technical and challenging. Riders faced a forward-riding course with a time allowed of 82 seconds. Many competitors had trouble at fence 7, the liverpool, and at fence 11a-b, a wide square oxer to an airy musically-designed vertical plank. Out of the 75 starters, only 24 combinations went clear.
First to enter the ring for the U.S. was Farrington (Wellington, Fla.), and Amalaya Investments' 2002 KWPN gelding, Voyeur. Providing the second clear round of the day, Farrington and Voyeur made light work of the course setting the stage for the U.S. team.
"We are off on the right foot so that always feels good in terms of confidence and is a boost for the team," said Farrington. "It's a great technical course for the first day. The last line is very technical and bending. Being the lead-off rider, I know my horse very well, and one of my strengths is that I know what I want to do with him."
Davis (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Old Oak Farm's Barron, a 2004 Belgian Warmblood gelding, entered the ring calm and composed. Looking to repeat Farrington's clear round, they jumped beautifully. However, Barron's back feet tapped the top rail on the last jump, fence 12, resulting in an unlucky rail for four penalties.
"My horse is jumping incredibly, and we had an unfortunate rail at the last jump," said Davis. "My trainer told me before I went in to enjoy the moment and that was the perfect thing to say. We all worked hard to get here, and it's a pretty special moment. I just went in really calm, and my horse was jumping out of his skin."
Putting in a professional ride, Ward (Brewster, N.Y.) and Double H Farm and Francois Mathy's Azur, also had a nearly faultless first round. Confident and careful throughout thefirst triple combination, and clear over the liverpool, Ward and Azur dropped the back rail when landing at the wide oxer at fence 11a collecting four faults.
"I was very happy with Azur. She jumped amazing as always. I purposely left her a little fresh today; it's a long week and temperatures are going up," said Ward. Looking forward to the rest of the competition and the position the U.S. currently holds, Ward stated, "It's a great group; I think we look strong. It's quite a good position we're in, and things start to get a little more serious on Tuesday."
The anchor for the U.S. team was Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and her famed partner, Cortes 'C', a 2002 Belgium Warmblood gelding owned by Abigail Wexner. Beezie and Cortes 'C', were on point in delivering a solid round. Sailing through the combinations that had been problematic throughout the day, Cortes 'C's back leg had an unlucky light tap on a blockon the wall (fence 8) for four faults.
"The ride felt very good, always a good feeling to get the first round out of the way. I think on the whole it was a very good round," said Madden. "He jumped very well, and I'm happy where he is right now. I had to ride the water a little strong. I think I took for granted that he'd back off on the wall; he clipped it coming down and stalled a little when I turned him in the air."
Madden looks forward to Tuesday's competition, saying, "Today, it's important, we want good scores, but we are setting up a little for Tuesday and Wednesday. All of us are really happy with how everybody's horses look and the rounds we had."
Action continues on Tuesday with the first of two rounds of the team competition, which will conclude on Wednesday.